Out of curiosity, I typed in “real man” on Google to see what would come up. The very first link that came up was from the Huffington Post, titled “10 Ways To Know You’re Dating a Real Man”. It can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-michael-sama/dating-a-real-man_b_4310638.html. Of course I was curious to see what Huffington thought a “real man” should be like, so I clicked the link, hoping for something a little more progressive than what I usually find on the internet. Unfortunately, what I found was something very heteronormative that takes away individuality, as well as a man’s story, out of the picture. It is a message to women on what a “real man” should be, and if you happen to find a guy with these qualities, they claim you have “struck gold”.
Don’t get me wrong here. I see what the Huffington article is seemingly trying to do. It is trying to show girls that they should find a man that doesn’t just treat them like a piece of meat and a sexual object, but instead respects them and shows them traditional chivalry. But here’s the thing: I really have a problem with the phrase “real man”. So if I don’t fall into these categories set out by the article, what am I, a FAKE one? If you want to know what a real man is, know this: A real man is just that – a real human being. First, not every man is heterosexual, something this article seems to assume. Secondly, “real” men come with baggage. That is to say they all come with a past, fears, phobias, faults, etc. They also come with their own life story as well. The author here seems to dismiss all of that and instead basically claims that a “real” man is perfect. It is very “cookie cutter”, in a sense, at least the way the author describe what a real man should be. This article also does an extreme disservice to the heterosexual women out there. If women really buy into these ideas, they are sure to be let down when they start looking for men to date. No man will be perfect and exhibit all of these qualities to a “T”. Every human has their faults, and men are definitely no exception. The media should not be setting up women to look for a “perfect” man in the way that they frame it.
This all can apply to student affairs professionals, as it shows us what society frames our young men to be like. It also shows us what the media is telling the young women to be looking for in a man. But what if these men fail to live up to this standard, or these women fail to find this seemingly perfect man? It is imperative that we help them realize that there is no “perfect” person out there, although it is possible to find someone who is uniquely perfect for that student in a romantic relationship, complete with flaws and all. We must be cognizant, however, that society has these expectations for our men, as well as giving girls almost unrealistic expectations for a heterosexual partner.
I can definitely relate to this culture, however, as I am still a part of it and exposed to it. I grew up trying to be everything society said a “perfect” man should be. Sometimes I consumed myself with it. I did it because I knew that the message was out there, and if I did not live up to these standards, no girl would ever want to be with me. As wrong as I realize I was back then, it was very much a real reality at the time. We must keep in mind that it is the reality these students are coming from as well. We must do our best to educate them that everyone is very unique and that we do not ever have to live up to societal expectations. Getting involved with partners romantically can be a big part of the college experience for many students. We must try to help them be comfortable in their own skin and happy with who they are as an individual. If we do not and they pursuit being what society tells them to be, they are surely bound to meet failure. At the same time, I acknowledge that we must give them space to fail, for it is often that development and learning comes from failure and experimentation. We just have to be able to be a resource for them whenever that inevitable failure does come around in their lives.